Wednesday, March 16, 2022

The difference the protest made

Many still credit the Labour government with its life-saving approach to Covid in 2020. But from the outset it was only ever another form of Me-Too. Labour was very quick to jump on board with whatever other countries were doing (even though our physical circumstances were markedly different) with a national hard lock-down, wage subsidies, printing money and border closure. The government justified it by saying that's what everybody else is doing.  It was copycat policy.

They then continued the application of orthodoxy on the domestic populace mandating vaccinations, passports and scanning. Everybody else is doing it and so will you. 

But why is that ever a sound reason to do something? 

To rub salt into the wound New Zealand continues this smug conceit that it is somehow world-leading. An innovator. Progressive and liberal.

While the private sector might have some claims, the government certainly doesn't.

Talking to a friend yesterday, his indifference to Ardern has mushroomed into a visceral loathing. His bristling is palpable. He is sick of being treated like a child, talked to as if he is an idiot. His words.

And when you think about it, living under Ardern has been like being back at school. Where most teachers preached conformity for your own good, or for the greater good, or for the sake of the school community.

Yet anyone who spent a moment reflecting knew that ultimately, you are on your own. You make your own way in the world. You love and look after friends and family, as they do you. But we are each an island. A self-contained intellectual entity.

A Chinese writer sent a letter to the Leighton Smith podcast. She described how in her country actions are only ever in service to the state, for the greater good and so, except for your parents, nobody actually cares about you as an individual.

Collectivist Ardern made this reality sickeningly clear when after imploring kindness and compassion from every one of her team of 5 million she vilified and ostracized and lied about those who gathered at parliament to ask her to end the mandates (a word the Chinese correspondent described as being very familiar to her country folk).

But the spark of human individuality cannot be suppressed indefinitely. Like the lad who mentioned the naked emperor's actual state. Or the exceedingly brave Russian broadcaster who momentarily yelled to the tv cameras that it's all propaganda.

Maybe, just maybe, the silver lining from the last two bewildering and stultifying years will be a re-emergence of individual independence - freedom of action, freedom of thought and freedom from fools.

OK. The last wish is unrealistic but at the very least, foolish ideas and their consequences might once more be debated openly without group-think silencing detractors.

A woman who liked Trump gave her reason as: "He says things I can only think."

I don't have an opinion on Trump. In the same way it irks me that people think our Prime Minister is wonderful when they don't have to live under her leadership, what do I know about America?

But I do have an opinion about the woman. No-one should feel unsafe or unable to express their thoughts. That is what New Zealand had become. That place.

Until the protest. A catalyst. A real event which forced itself into everyone's foreground and couldn't be avoided. Without bidding, a number of people just came out and said to me, I support the protestors. Which opened a floodgate of pent-up frustration and eager conversation.

Having nailed their colours, people will not unnail them. The protestors did make everyone braver. The aftermath isn't about deciding who is right and who is wrong. It's about more people saying what they think. And in doing so finding they are not as isolated as they thought they were. Or as stupid as they had been made to believe.

There is not a shred of doubt in my mind that the parliamentary protest will prove the point of no return for this government.  It exposed Ardern in a way no other event could have.

Her exposure wasn't unique though. Every party agreed to treat the protestors with utter disdain. Our oppositional parliament presented a barricade as unified as the one composed of riot shields and pepper-spraying police.

For me personally that was the big reveal. The lasting impact. For years I've resisted those hackneyed phrases, "Politicians? They're all as bad as each other." "Don't vote. It only encourages them!"

In that moment, the protest also provided a damning demonstration of the truth of these slogans.